Monday, December 6

400 letters between Chekhov and Olga Knipper reveal the intimate life of the couple


The theater of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) is performed over and over again all over the world and his works such as Uncle Vania, The Seagull or The cherry garden they are known to fans. However, the passionate and intense life of that Russian doctor and playwright who died young of tuberculosis is not so familiar to his fans. Now, and from the more than 400 letters that Chekhov and his wife, the actress Olga Knipper, exchanged between 1898 and 1904, the American teacher and writer Carol Rocamora has recreated in Your hand in mine that complex and brief relationship. This work, which has been premiered by director Santiago Sánchez in Madrid, will be on the bill throughout the month of November. The montage also coincides with the publication in Spanish of Chekhov. A life (Plot), by Donald Rayfield, the most complete biography of the master of the short story and the theater.

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“It is surprising,” says Santiago Sánchez, “that this work is 95% based on letters, on an epistolary genre that has already disappeared, but that it allows us today to rebuild the relationship between the two protagonists. We see here that for Chekhov his love and Later marriage with Olga Knipper meant a second youth and the joy and luminosity of that woman gave him the necessary energy to write The three sisters and The cherry garden. Eclipsed in part by her husband’s fame, Olga Knipper was a great actress who was part of the mythical Art Theater directed by Konstantin Stanislavski in Moscow. “Chekhov’s illness, which limited her movements, as well as Knipper’s career in the Scenarios forced the loving couple to spend long periods apart.

Thus, and in the midst of financial difficulties, health problems and an abortion of the actress, who was eight years younger than her husband and who lived to be 91 years old, the two resorted to letters to keep their passion alive. They are missives that speak of work, love, theater or everyday life. “Fortunately, Chekhov did not have a telephone because he wrote more than 4,000 letters,” observes Carol Rocamora, a specialist in the teacher and translator of his works into English, with humor. “The relationship between Anton and Olga”, he adds, “is among the most beautiful love stories told through letters, a lucid chronicle of a marriage that results in a universal portrait. It should be noted that Chekhov was a very prolific author as he signed close to of 600 short stories, a genre in which he excelled, and seven plays “.

Of humble origins and a doctor by profession, Anton Chekhov had the opportunity to meet very different situations and characters, he participated in health emergencies and he himself contracted tuberculosis when he was very young. From a very observant mood and from a nomadic life, he turned everything he lived into literature. Ana Doblado, editor of Plot, a label that bets on biographies, answers the question of why Chekhov’s literature is still valid. “The psychology to penetrate the characters”, he explains, “that description of real and close people shown with subtlety, with their virtues and defects, make the author of Uncle Vania in an immortal writer at the height of Shakespeare or Cervantes. You never leave to see a work of Chekhov without something stirring inside you. “The person in charge of Plot hopes that the biography about Chekhov by Donald Rayfield, an author who joins names like Natalia Ginzburg or Irene Nemirovsky in his approach to the Russian genius. For his part, Santiago Sánchez also clarifies in this key the reasons for the universality of Chekhov and his survival more than a century after his death. “His characters and his plots represent the human soul”, maintains this veteran and award-winning theater director, “and his theater influenced Ibsen, Miller or Veronese. In addition, he dissects his characters with a scalpel without sentimentalizing them. It is clear that Chekhov, like all great creators, was a magnificent observer who placed a mirror before the spectators so that they could see themselves reflected. In everyone there is something of us. ”

Those who have studied or staged pieces by Chekhov highlight the tragicomic character of his theater, tinged with nostalgia for the passage of time and with many touches of humor. In fact, the author was surprised that Stanislavski and the Moscow art theater interpreted it as a drama The cherry garden, his last play, which Chekhov considered to be a comedy. In any case, his profession as a doctor, his humanistic vocation and his existentialist philosophy undoubtedly marked his literature. Actor José Manuel Casany, who plays Chejov in Your hand in mine agrees that he was a great observer and adds that as a scientist he had an environmental vision of the world, while his co-star, Rebeca Valls, vindicates the figure of a hitherto forgotten Olga Knipper. On the other hand, it is true that some historians and critics have also stressed that Chekhov reflected in his works a world in transformation on the eve of the First World War and the Soviet revolution. But Santiago Sánchez looks further and remembers that the author of The cherry garden he was haunted by the mark he was going to leave, why future generations would think of him. “Chekhov asks himself why we live, why we are here and he answers that if we knew … For all this we speak of a universal writer.”



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